Actuarial Science

Actuaries use statistical data to make decisions and minimize financial losses for financial firms, government agencies and insurance companies. Read about career options and salaries here, and learn about the degree programs and certifications that can help you obtain a position as an actuary.

Is Actuarial Science for Me?

Career Overview

Actuarial science is the practice of analyzing statistical data to assess financial risk. As an actuary, you'll use statistical models to estimate the likelihood of catastrophic illness, injury, disability, loss of property and death. You'll then set prices to cover costs while still allowing for a profit. For example, you may determine the cost of life insurance for an individual based on the statistical averages of death for someone with the same or similar demographic information.

Career Options

If you decide to become an actuary, you may find work with an insurance company, where you'll specialize in a particular area, such as casualty or health insurance. You might also find a position in financial services or with the government, managing programs like Medicare. As a pension actuary, you'll need to be familiar with the standards set forth by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Employment and Salary Information

According to information provided by the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA), your average salary could vary considerably depending on your years of experience, location and type of industry (

As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of actuaries was expected to grow by 26%, or much faster than average, from 2012-2022. Areas of potential growth include casualty and property, enterprise risk management and health insurance. As of May 2013, actuaries earned a median annual salary of $94,340 (

How Can I Work in Actuarial Science?

Educational Requirements

Actuarial degrees and courses range from the bachelor's to the doctoral level. Some school offer online certificates in actuarial science. Minimum educational requirements typically include a bachelor's degree in actuarial science, economics, math or statistics.

Undergraduate coursework usually includes topics in calculus, finance, linear algebra and probability. You'll also study business, computer science, macroeconomics and microeconomics. Additional program features include industry internships and the opportunity to prepare for the national actuarial exams.


According to the BLS, an industry certification is required before you can be recognized as a full professional actuary. There are two tiers of credentials: associate-level and fellowship level. In addition to fulfilling the educational requirements, you'll have to pass a series of exams administered through the CAS or SOA, depending on your area of specialization. It can take as long as ten years to pass all of the exams and achieve professional status, but you could seek employment after graduation and complete the exam process while you work.

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